Smoked meat assortment beef brisket pulled pork
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Best Hole-in-the-Wall BBQ Joints Across America

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Smoked meat assortment beef brisket pulled pork
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Meat America's Best

Writing about barbecue is like writing about politics — no matter your position, a lot of people are going to hate you. The word "best" is subjective, but to barbecue aficionados, it is indisputable that their favorite haunts are the unrivaled kings of all things smoked, marinated, and rubbed. Regional tastes also play a role. The term "hole-in-the-wall" is, of course, also open to interpretation. This article attempts to capture the overlap between the barbecue joints that are undeniable contenders for best in their city or state with rave reviews from locals, but that serve their masterpieces in an atmosphere that is neither pretentious nor haughty — "hole-in-the-wall" is a compliment, not an insult.

Note: While many restaurants may be closed to dine-in customers due to COVID-19 restrictions, all of the restaurants on this list are at least offering delivery, takeout, or outdoor seating. Be sure to call ahead to confirm.

Related: 25 Barbecue Recipes and Tricks From Celebrity Chefs

Kreuz Market
Paul D./Yelp

Kreuz Market

Lockhart, Texas
If what the city has long claimed is true, that Lockhart really is the barbecue capital of Texas, you could argue for starting this list with Black's, Chisholm Trail, or any of the other staples that keep the hungry and curious flocking to town from nearby Austin and beyond. But we chose to start the list with Kreuz Market, where the work gets done in German meat-market-style brick pits. The place is famous for its brisket, but it would be morally wrong to leave without trying the smoked sausage.

Smitty's Market
Diane N./Yelp

Smitty's Market

Lockhart, Texas
Like across-the-street Philly cheesesteak rivals Pat's and Geno's, great restaurants often come in clusters — and barbecue is no different. Family-owned since 1924, Smitty's Market has almost as much history in the barbecue mecca of Lockhart as Kreuz Market. The magic comes from its primitive but time-tested open-pit fire, and the brisket is famous throughout the Lone Star State for a reason.

Related: 19 Legendary Restaurant Rivalries That Divide America

Mike Anderson's
Kristian D./Yelp

Mike Anderson's BBQ House

Dallas
Mike Anderson's serves as many as 500 guests a day with lines that are known to snake outside the building. The masses are willing to wait for good reason. The vibe is friendly and the place is big — you can fit 100 people inside and another 80 outside on the deck. Virtually every single part of all 10 hickory-smoked meat offerings and 13 side orders is handled in house.

Related: 23 Restaurants with Crazy Lines That Are Still Worth the Wait

Blue Oak BBQ
Lauren D./Yelp

Blue Oak BBQ

New Orleans
Heading to Louisiana you'll find Blue Oak BBQ, where the employee photo includes about a third of the workers holding draft beers, several wearing mud boots, and one long-haired dude is wearing a backward ballcap, cargo shorts and a white blazer with a pink necktie — hole, meet wall. Diners recommend splitting the all-the-meat-all-the-sides option, which costs a beefy $65. New Orleans is famous for jambalaya, gumbo, crawdads, and po-boys, so barbecue often falls under the radar. But Blue Oak brisket and ribs will remind you that the Big Easy does take its barbecue seriously.

Hickory Stick
Bill L./Yelp

Hickory Stick

Shreveport, Louisiana
Stop in for a meal or order by the pound, but either way, your hunger will be satiated with a trip to Hickory Stick. Although the ribs and pulled pork — and the secret house-made barbecue sauce that drenches them — are clearly the stars of the show, consider saving room for the homemade soups, which even give the meats a run for their money.

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Stacy A./Yelp

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous

Memphis, Tennessee
The family-owned Memphis institution that is Charlie Vergos Rendezvous started in a basement in 1948. Today, it's known for its low-key vibe and giant portions of pork ribs and massive combination platters. The pork ribs and shoulder rule the roost at Rendezvous and stand out as stellar even in the barbecue mecca of Memphis.

Delauder's
Becky C./Yelp

Delauder's

Gatlinburg, Tennessee
On the farthest reaches of Eastern Tennessee, opposite of Memphis in the West, is Gatlinburg, where you'll find a true hidden gem waiting to be discovered in one of the most well-worn barbecue states in America. There are an astonishing number of things that Delauder's is willing to barbecue, all of which are worthy of an award. Try the barbecued nachos, chicken chunks, and pork butts.

Copper Top BBQ
Edwin R./Yelp

Copper Top BBQ

Big Pine, California
On the side of the highway in the small town of Big Pine is Copper Top. It's relocated recently to a larger space with some inside dining, but even there the once-little smoke stand has stuck by its picnic tables — which is the best way to enjoy barbecue anyway. Order the tri-tip steak, which is smoked in open pits to a pink medium. Fire-roasted chili with beans makes for a complementary side.

Cook's BBQ
Thomas R./Yelp

Cook's Barbecue

Lexington, North Carolina
Unlike the standard fare that made Lexington barbecue famous — although the city claims that it invented barbecue and therefore doesn't need anything to make it famous — Cook's Barbecue offers a wide variety of meats. Sure, they have an obsession with pork, but brisket, sausage, and beef ribs are all part of the experience as well. Not only is brisket available, but it's stellar. And that's by any standard, not just by the standards of North Carolina, where brisket is often an afterthought.

Iron Grate BBQ
Tim H./Yelp

Iron Grate BBQ

Milwaukee

Pitmasters have graced Milwaukee for decades, but it's a newcomer that's turning heads. Iron Grate BBQ leaves the pork belly attached to its ribs, creating a thick cap of sticky, smoky fat that melts into the meat. The pitmasters here dub it the "Milwaukee-style rib," and it pairs well with Iron Grate's smoked tomato mac and cheese or a half-pound of barbecue peel-and-eat shrimp.

Pat's BBQ
Patty W./Yelp

Pat's BBQ

Murphysboro, Illinois
A local favorite in a town that's known for knowing barbecue, Pat's BBQ is famous for its family-friendly atmosphere as much as it is for its massive, heaping portions. The vinegar-based barbecue sauce adds a little bit of tang to every bite, and the pulled-pork sandwich alone is enough for Pat's to make the list. As is the brisket. And the baked beans. And have we mentioned the barbecue sauce?

Roper's Ribs
Jemmie W./Yelp

Roper's Ribs

St. Louis
Roper's Ribs claims to serve the "best BBQ in the Universe." While that statement is difficult to confirm, it is true that entertainer Steve Harvey once insisted the nondescript, family-owned restaurant serves the "best barbecue ribs in America." Hickory smoked for 12 hours, the ribs, shrimp, rib tips, brisket, and pulled pork here have won an impressive list of accolades and awards. Pay them a visit the next time you're in St. Louis and you'll understand why.

LC's BBQ
Over I./Yelp

L.C.'s Bar-B-Q

Kansas City, Missouri
You can see the smoke pouring out of L.C.'s Bar-B-Q before you smell the goodness, and you can smell it before you see the building. No matter what you order, it will almost certainly be too much, and the burnt ends are everything you'd expect from the very best of a barbecue city such as K.C. If you can't decide on the animal of origin, go for the burnt ends half-and-half platter, which gives you beef and pork.

Blue Door
Jeremy J./Yelp

Blue Door

Lexington, Kentucky
The Blue Door is famous for its prices as much as its food. Everything comes with a single-digit price tag until you hit the platters — and when you hit the platters, you'll be happy you did. You can add brisket, pulled pork, chicken, and sausage to just about everything, even the salads. The real draw, however, are the two-, three-, and four-meat combos, and the granddaddy of them all is the Blue Door Special, which promises "all the meats" for $22.

Miss Myras
Anne N./Yelp

Miss Myra's

Birmingham, Alabama
Reviewers rave about the legendary white sauce at Miss Myra's, but the real magic is that the Birmingham favorite mixes A-list quality with hole-in-the-wall prices — everything but  a two-meat combo plate comes in under $15, and every one of the gargantuan family packs goes for less than $30. Then, of course, there are the pies. Homemade and hand-crafted, you'll dive into choice selections such as chocolate chess, peanut butter, coconut, key lime, and chocolate cream.

Wagner's Ribs
Aubrey L./Yelp

Wagner's Ribs

Porter, Indiana
Wagner's Ribs claims to make the "most award-winning ribs in Indiana" and "the best ribs you've ever had in your life." Bold claims, but ones Wagner's works hard to back up. Its ribs are Texas-style dry rubbed, and steak options include black Angus filet mignon and ribeye. If you're thirsty, don't worry — there are more than 75 beers on the menu.

One Eyed Jacks
Phil F./Yelp

One-eyed Jacks Smokehouse Grill

Lockport, New York
St. Louis-cut pork ribs and Texas-style beef brisket are just a few of the items that keep customers coming back to One-Eyed Jacks. A family-owned West New York staple, the barbecue dive claims to be "one of only a few true BBQ joints in all of WNY." Part of the secret is that sauce is strictly forbidden — everything is either dry rubbed or just straight smoked.

Rickettes World Famous Chicken, Fish And Barbecue
Jeff E./Yelp

Rickettes World Famous Chicken, Fish And Barbecue

Chicago
Despite the bold claim in the name, Rickettes is actually one of Chicago's great hidden gems. Those in the know, however, are so keen on learning the secret of the magic that legend has it that the owner hides the smoker so no one can see what kind he uses. The traditional barbecued meats can stack up against any in the Windy City, but if you can only order one thing, it absolutely must be the catfish.

Related: 20 Amazing Seafood Shacks Across America

Fat Matt's
James S./Yelp

Fat Matt's Barbecue

Atlanta
Although it looks like a dilapidated dive on the outside, Fat Matt's is home to barbecue and, when there's not a pandemic around to kill the mood, nightly live blues acts that could rival any in Atlanta. Its ribs and sweet potato pie have won well-earned awards, but the chicken earns rave reviews from Fat Matt's loyalists as well.

Related: 54 Under-the-Radar Restaurants with Amazing Homemade Pie

The Barbecue Exchange
Nicole O./Yelp

The Barbecue Exchange

Gordonsville, Virginia
The very best in authentic Virginia barbecue, the Barbecue Exchange roasts its half chickens over live coals, just like the street-side vendors of old. The meats are cured with secret dry rubs and brought to life in a custom wood-burning cooker. The tables are made from cedar, and the spareribs and pork shoulders are hickory smoked.

Jo-Bawb's Championship BBQ
Jenn M./Yelp

Jo-Bawb's Championship BBQ

Oklahoma City
What started as a barbecue competition team evolved into a restaurant in Wyoming and one of the most highly prized mobile barbecue trailers in all of Oklahoma City. Jo-Bawb's Championship BBQ's list of awards, accolades, and championship prizes are too many to list, but its masterpiece can be summed up in a single word: brisket.

Peeble's
Katrina A./Yelp

Peeble's Bar-B-Q

Auburndale, Florida
Peeble's was born in 1947, and it remains an Auburndale institution. The chopped chicken is a fan favorite, as is the rib sandwich. Unless you're buying the hefty samplers, everything on the dine-in menu costs less than $13. (Well, okay, the regular ribs plate with its three sides is $13.20.)

Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Spots for Fried Chicken in Every State

E & L Barbeque
Finis D./Yelp

E&L Barbeque

Jackson, Mississippi
For three decades, E&L Barbeque has been dishing up some of the juiciest, softest, fall-off-the-bone tips, ribs, and hot sausages. If you're looking for pomp or fanfare, you're in the wrong place, but if you came to the Magnolia State for flavor, you'd be hard-pressed to do much better than E&L.

Uncle Beth's
Rich M./Yelp

Uncle Beth's BBQ

North Lewisburg, Ohio
The St. Louis-style ribs at Uncle Beth's are served wet; these chunks of meat are mopped with the restaurant's sweet barbecue sauce, though you can get a spicy sauce on request. Pulled pork, served either on a bun or on top of a baked potato with cheese, are the stars here. Brisket is available on Saturdays and goes well with the joint's spiced apples and jalapeño cornbread pudding on the side.

Gene's BBQ
Violet M./Yelp

Gene's Barbecue

Brinkley, Arkansas
You wouldn't know it by looking at the small, weathered, sheet metal building it calls home, but Gene's boasts some of the finest barbecue that Arkansans have within their state lines. The barbecue is great, but the classic Southern hospitality is better.

Sugar Boogers
Helen C./Yelp

Sugar Boogers

Huntsville, Arkansas
Comfort food meets barbecue at Sugar Boogers in Huntsville. Hot food and a warm atmosphere keep the locals coming back, but the out-of-this-world brisket and pork combo helps, too. If you're riding through the hills of Highway 21 and Arkansas 412, stop in for a beer and a bite, and join the faithful converts who call it their home away from home.

Related: The Best Spot for Comfort Food in Every State

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
Tomas M./Yelp

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que

Denver
Break out of the barbecue mold with a trip to Roaming Buffalo, where the name reflects the unique menu. Try the Colorado bison back ribs, the bison green-chile sausage, the pulled Colorado lamb shoulder, or the Colorado lamb shank. Western barbecue at its very finest, every day of the week brings a different special — smoked and loaded spuds on Wednesdays, burnt ends on Thursday, and the list goes on.

Hickory House Restaurant
Travel D./Yelp

Hickory House Restaurant

Jane Lew, West Virginia
The Hickory House lives by the motto: "the wood makes it good" and cooks its meats low and slow over hickory flames, refusing to cut corners or take shortcuts. Even the pickles are homemade. A mainstay since 2005, Hickory House features awesome apps such as onion tanglers and the pork cheddar fries, as well as entrees including the pork barbecue jalapeño melt. Platters of pork, brisket, or a half-rack of ribs are less than $16.

Hungry for more? Be sure to check out some of the bigger names in Bucket List Barbecue in Every State.